Teacher Wellness

Why I am Still Banging My Head Against the Whiteboard

July 25, 2014

Why am I still teaching? Why am I remotely considering the possibility of walking back into those classroom doors and stepping back into the fishbowl that has become education? Frustration abounds in education these days. All you have to do is browse the internet, pick up a newspaper, or listen to T.V. and talk radio to know that the teaching field is at its breaking point. Teachers are tired and frustrated and angry. Many have left the field or would leave education if there were any other jobs in our floundering market. In fact, new teachers frequently leave education before they even hit their 5 year mark. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future statistics show that close to 50% of new teachers in urban districts leave the profession during their first five years of teaching (Niver Rajna). Fifty percent? Fifty percent throw in the towel and say this teaching gig is so bad that I’d like to hand in my notice and just walk away?

There are blogs, posts, articles, and essays about what is wrong with education. The authors state what we, as educators, are so upset about, so distraught over. The low pay, the Common Core, the assessments, the data, the disconnect between those making the laws about education and the educators, and the blame game. Did I mention the blame that falls onto our weary shoulders? Well, these are real problems. I am not discounting them. I have been known to post and said, “Amen!” to some of these same articles on my very own Facebook timeline. My teacher friends could testify that I have joined in the ‘dump on education’ chorus a time or two with some of our favorite ‘save me Jesus’ hymns, “They Should Just Listen to Us” and “It’s Not Our Fault”.

So why am I still here? Why am I still a teacher? So why am I still banging my head against the whiteboard? (We really don’t use chalkboards anymore.)

I am still a teacher because I still believe. I still believe in education. I still believe in our children. I still believe in our future. I still believe I can help shape that future, one class, one student, one child at a time. I still believe that there needs to be someone who connects a child to the great universe of knowledge that has been created. I believe teachers are that connection. We are the conduits and the facilitators. We are the cords or the modems, if you will, that are needed to access knowledge and then translate that information in a way that it is understandable to the child. Not everyone is programmed to do this. Not everyone can be the facilitator that a student needs.

I am still a teacher because teaching is not a job for me—it’s who I am. Let’s face it folks, I did not become a teacher based on the salary scale or upon the reverence American society places on the position. I could have been anything; I could have dreamed about becoming anything, achieving anything. I dreamed of becoming a teacher. In my heart-of-hearts teaching was my deepest desire. In all honesty, I became a teacher DESPITE what I knew about education. Teaching really is my dream job. I kind of feel like teaching chose me instead of me choosing teaching. The education debates may be swirling around the countryside but, in my class, I am happy. I am happy to be there with my students teaching on.

I am still a teacher because I am still challenged every day. There is never a day that is the same for a teacher. No monotony here means never, ever a dull day. I am seriously challenged to become better every day that I teach because the students need me to be better. They need me to reach higher and dig deeper. I have seen websites that state that a teacher makes around 1,500 educational decisions a day. I think this thoroughly underestimates our daily teacher thinking. For example, I ask a question about our reading story, and this is a glimpse of the running dialogue that flits through my mind in the 5 seconds before I call on a student:

Was that an open ended question? Where on Bloom’s taxonomy did that fall? Am I challenging my students with higher order thinking? Is this question on their test? Who do I call on? Who did I call on last? Was it a boy? Have I called on too many boys? Have I only called on kids that have volunteered? Have I given everyone a chance to respond? Why is Billy picking his nose? Does he need a tissue? Is everyone focused on our discussion if Billy is picking his nose? Has this been enough wait time? What is my next question?

Seriously, companies should be recruiting teachers. We are the ultimate decision makers and problem solvers. We have mad people skills, are great at presenting, have a strong sense of dedication, and can make it on a shoe-string budget.

Finally, I am still at teacher because learning is my passion. I have a ferocious appetite for learning and a compulsive desire to explore new things. I love seeking out something new, scouring internet sites, reading books, and taking classes. I believe this passion for learning is what I need to communicate most to my students as we move forward further into the 21st century. We are preparing our students for jobs that are yet to be created with a curriculum that will be outdated most likely before they graduate. Ahh… but if we teach them to love learning…..

The question: should we bang our heads or not bang our heads? I think I will bang on.

Why did you first become a teacher? Why are you still walking the halls? Surely it’s not the paycheck. Dig deep. Write the reason down and post it on your desk. Let it serve as a reminder this year of the ‘why’ when the ‘oh no’s’ get you down. Education may not be an easy road, but it is the only road to a better future!

Niver Rajna, Lisa. "Why So Many of America's Teachers Are Leaving the Profession." Huffington Post. N.p., 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 21 July 2014.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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